Lebanon’s top Christian clerics blast politicians as hunger, hardship bite

Anti-government protesters scuffle with Lebanese policemen after they removed a part of a concrete wall that was installed by security forces to prevent them from reaching the government palace in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, July 2, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 05 July 2020

Lebanon’s top Christian clerics blast politicians as hunger, hardship bite

  • Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai accused politicians of thinking only of their own vested interests

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Christian authorities slammed politicians on Sunday for failing to remedy an economic meltdown that has left many poor, piling pressure on the country’s leaders as it spirals deeper into crisis.
In a sermon, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, the top Christian cleric, accused politicians of thinking only of their own vested interests and urged the president to take action.
“It appears politicians want to hide their responsibility in emptying the treasury and not enact any reforms,” he said.
Hopes of salvation through an IMF deal have retreated, with the government unwilling or unable to enact reforms, hamstrung by the conflicting agendas of sectarian leaders who don’t want to yield power or privileges.
The crisis, which has decimated the local currency and raised fears of mass hunger, is seen as the biggest threat to Lebanon’s stability since its 1975-1990 civil war.
“Political officials...do not have the courage nor the freedom to meet and find ways out of the suffering,” Rai said. He warned this was depriving the country of help it needs from foreign donors.
Economic woes, rooted in state waste and corruption, came to the fore last year after capital inflows slowed and protests erupted against leaders in power since the war.
Lebanon’s sectarian political system parcels out state posts based on religious sect, with the presidency reserved for a Maronite Christian.
The largest Christian bloc, President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, is close to the Iran-backed Shiite Hezbollah movement. Both backed the current cabinet, which took office in January.
In another sermon in a central Beirut church, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Audi also lambasted the political elite on Sunday.
“Oh respected leaders, I address whatever conscience remains in you,” he said. “Do you sleep comfortably at night while those under your care starve, and die of thirst and by suicide?“
Earlier this week, dozens of people mourned a man who killed himself in a busy Beirut district, blaming the country’s leaders for the hardship which they said caused his death.


UN warns of possible ‘war crimes’ in Turkish-controlled Syria

Updated 41 min 8 sec ago

UN warns of possible ‘war crimes’ in Turkish-controlled Syria

  • The victims include people perceived to be allied with opposing parties or as being critical of the actions of the Turkish-affiliated armed groups, Bachelet’s office said
  • Those affiliated groups have also seized and looted houses, land and property without any apparent military necessity, said OHCHR

GENEVA: Armed groups in the area of northern Syria controlled by Turkey may have committed war crimes and other violations of international law, the UN rights chief said Friday.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the situation in those areas of Syria was grim, with violence and criminality rife.
In a statement, Bachelet’s UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said it had noted an “alarming pattern in recent months of grave violations,” having documented increased killings, kidnappings, unlawful transfers of people, seizures of land and properties and forcible evictions.
The victims include people perceived to be allied with opposing parties or as being critical of the actions of the Turkish-affiliated armed groups, Bachelet’s office said.
Those affiliated groups have also seized and looted houses, land and property without any apparent military necessity, said OHCHR.
Furthermore, increased infighting among the various Turkish-affiliated armed groups over power-sharing was causing civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.
Turkey controls large stretches of northeastern Syria through various armed groups, and is conducting operations aimed at driving out Kurdish militias and extremists.
In October last year, Turkish forces and their Syrian proxies occupied a 120-kilometer (75-mile) stretch of land inside the Syrian border from Kurdish forces.
Ankara has also deployed forces in several military posts it established in northwestern Idlib as part of a 2018 deal with regime ally Moscow, while Turkey also controls a stretch of territory along its border in neighboring Aleppo province following a series of military offensives since 2016.Bachelet’s office said it had documented the abduction and disappearance of civilians, including women and children.
It also said that from the start of the year until last Monday, it had verified the deaths of at least 116 civilians as a result of improvised explosive devices and explosive remnants of war, while a further 463 civilians were injured.
“I urge Turkey to immediately launch an impartial, transparent and independent investigation into the incidents we have verified, account for the fate of those detained and abducted by the affiliated armed groups and hold accountable those responsible for what may, in some instances, amount to crimes under international law, including war crimes,” Bachelet said.
“This is all the more vital given that we have received disturbing reports that some detainees and abductees have allegedly been transferred to Turkey following their detention in Syria by affiliated armed groups.”
Meanwhile Bachelet voiced concern that parties to the conflict in Syria were using essential services as a weapon.
“Impeding access to water, sanitation and electricity endangers the lives of large numbers of people, a danger rendered all the more acute amid fighting a global pandemic,” she said.